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Rural NZ Will Know Better Next Time, Mallard

Rural NZ Will Know Better Next Time, Mallard

Education Minister Trevor Mallard's announcement last night, that the axe will fall on 15 Timaru schools, has highlighted his breathtaking hypocrisy, ACT New Zealand Education Spokesman Deborah Coddington said today.

"As Opposition Education Spokesman, Mr Mallard claimed in a 1999 media release that Labour was the only party `watching out for the interests of small rural communities and the needs of small rural schools'. His mean-spirited network reviews suggest this is no longer the case," Miss Coddington said.

"The Minister also said: `I have been to a wide range of small, isolated rural schools and listened to carefully to their concerns. Those concerns will be reflected in Labour's education policy'. He can't have listened well - I doubt these schools asked to be closed, thereby forcing children to travel by bus for over two hours to reach their closest school.

"Besides, where in Labour's 1999 and 2002 election manifestos did Mr Mallard say anything about closing New Zealand's heartland schools? He didn't - and that's what makes the network reviews that much more reprehensible.

"Mr Mallard then had the sheer audacity to suggest National's so-called `market driven' education approach had hit small schools hard. We know - from Cabinet papers I obtained under the Official Information Act - that the Minister closes schools to save money.

"Four years as Education Minister has made Mr Mallard arrogant - well, more arrogant. He has failed the rural parents and teachers who voted Labour in 1999. The Government's ludicrous plan to close more than 300 schools over the next seven years will ensure they won't make that mistake again," Miss Coddington said.

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